A balanced budget that will deliver for residents has been delivered.
Published: 27 February 2020
East Renfrewshire Council has today (Thursday 27 February) set a budget for 2020/21 that will continue to deliver for residents.
Despite challenging financial circumstances the council has set a balanced budget for the year ahead and also announced details of significant investment worth a total of £209m in a range of ambitious infrastructure projects.
These include delivering six new nurseries across the area, which from August will offer places for 740 children; building more new council houses in the coming year as part of our plans to create 240 homes for rent; and the opening of vastly-improved facilities at Bonnyton House care home for some of our most vulnerable residents.
A budget shortfall of £18m, which is expected to be reduced when the settlement from the Scottish Government is finalised, will be met in the year ahead through savings, the use of £3.5m reserves and Council Tax. Some particularly difficult savings include reduced funding for East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure Trust, savings from devolved school management budgets and reducing extra support for some pupils had been proposed but these will be reviewed in the light of yesterday's agreement on the Scottish Government's budget.
In setting the budget, councillors approved an increase to Council Tax of 4.84%, which will generate an additional £2.7m and help close the budget shortfall - ensuring the services which matter most to residents are protected.
Councillor Tony Buchanan, Leader of East Renfrewshire Council said: 'In setting the 2020/21 budget it has once again been extremely challenging. Until yesterday, the cash funding we receive to spend on vital day-to-day services was to be reduced by about 1% on a like-for-like basis. But now we understand our funding will be closer to a flat cash settlement. Whilst this is a welcome improvement, tough decisions still have to be made in order to balance our books, whilst also ensuring we can still support young people, the elderly and the most vulnerable people in our communities. The decision to increase Council Tax has not been taken lightly, as we know it will put an extra burden on residents. But, without generating this additional income, there would have to be further reductions in funding to our schools, public infrastructure such as roads, our parks and recycling services. Having balanced the books, we will continue to work harder than ever to deliver services which meet our residents' needs now and in the future.'
The council also confirmed no compulsory redundancies would be required in the coming financial year.
Prior to yesterday's announcement of additional funding from the Scottish Government, the Council also planned to identify further savings of £1.3million during the year ahead. However, following the announcement, these further savings will no longer need to be identified and some of the most difficult savings will be reviewed in the months ahead.
Exciting plans to spend £209m over the next 10 years on a range of ambitious capital projects were also outlined. These include:
- £24.9m spent on six new nurseries nearing completion across East Renfrewshire.
- £30m for a new leisure and learning campus in Neilston, with work due to start next year.
- £26m for improved new leisure facilities in Eastwood Park.
- £1m being invested in telecare systems to allow older and vulnerable people to live in their own homes.
- £580,000 being spent on transforming Bonnyton House into an integrated centre of excellence for older people in East Renfrewshire.
- 30 roads resurfaced in first year of a £15m programme of investment in maintaining and improving roads and pavements.
Council Leader Tony Buchanan added: 'Despite our very challenging savings target and the tough financial climate, we remain absolutely committed to delivering a wide range of ambitious projects to improve the lives of residents. We can already see many of these coming to fruition, with six new nurseries to open in August, new homes opened for our tenants, the award-winning Maidenhill Primary already a thriving school community, the Greenlaw Business Centre set to welcome its first tenants soon, and with plans progressing to invest £30m to improve education and leisure facilities in Neilston. The great progress we have made in such a short space of time to deliver these projects highlights some of the real achievements that have been made by East Renfrewshire Council. We are a Council that delivers.'
The opposition warned of increasingly tough times ahead for local authorities and proposed an alternative budget.
Following a vote, the Administration budget was approved and will now be taken forward by the council.
Council Leader's speech
A transcript of the Leader's speech and the accompanying presentation slides are available below: